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Mexico17 January 2008

Challenge to Guerrero authorities over failings in investigations of murders of two journalists

Reporters Without Borders called today called for an explanation from legal and government authorities in Guerrero state, south-eastern Mexico after the publication of reports which found serious failings in investigations into the murders of two journalists.

Amado Ramírez, of privately-owned national channel Televisa in Acapulco, was killed in the city on 6 April 2007, while the editor of regional daily El Despertar de la Costa, Misael Tamayo Hernández was found dead in a motel room at the exit to Ixtapa Zihuatanejo municipality on 10 November 2006.

The reports by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) found there had been astonishing irregularities in the conduct of the investigations.

In a 14 January 2008 report on the Amado Ramírez case the CNDH said that the professional lead had been completely ignored even though the journalist had received death threats before his death. The public ministry in Guerrero state had concluded the motive was personal and that it was revenge for an adulterous relationship the journalist was having.

The CNDH also said that autopsy reports and witness statements had been “tampered with”. More seriously, two suspects arrested four days after the murder on 10 April 2007, Leonel Bustos Muñoz and Genaro Vázquez Durán, were subjected to “acts of physical and psychological torture” intended to extract confessions. Police on 2 June released Leonel Bustos Muñoz but kept Genaro Vázquez Durán in prison, even though he had been cleared on 14 November by one of the witnesses of the murder, Salvador Cabrera.

Cabrera moreover complained of being pressurised by prosecutor’s office officials. In its recommendations, the CNDH called for the opening of an administrative investigation into five public ministry agents and into state police officers who worked on the case.

The CNDH report on the case of Misael Tamayo Hernández, released on 30 December 2007, concluded that the investigation had been “irregular” and “deficient”. Police had still not interviewed relatives of the victim nor analysed clues, such as telephone calls made by the journalist immediately before his death, on the road between Guerrero and Michoacán states, or payments made afterwards with his credit card. The CNDH called for an internal investigation within the public ministry and the police.

“The authorities in Guerrero state should respond as quickly as possible to the concerns and recommendations of the CNDH,” said Reporters Without Borders.

“At the very least, the public ministry and the Guerrero police are guilty of negligence and incompetence and at the worst of deliberately obstructing the justice which they are supposed to serve and represent,” said the worldwide press freedom organisation. . “Where the authorities aware of death threats made against the journalist? Why did they until now ignore possible links between the killings and the professions of the victims? Have they something to hide that the journalists had discovered or learned, in a region mired in drug-trafficking and organised crime?” it asked.

“The administrative investigations called for by the CNDH will not be enough. The federal justice system should take over the investigation of these two cases”, it concluded.

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